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The past two weeks, Bert Kreischer saw a familiar face while watching UFC.

His own.

The actor-comedian is starring in The Machine, a movie now playing in theaters. Advertisements for the new film have been ubiquitous, including appearing on posts in the Octagon, putting Kreischer’s face in the thick of the action.

“It was surreal to see myself there,” says Kreischer. “I still can’t believe it.”

The Machine is based on the story of how Kreischer got involved with the Russian mafia nearly three decades ago at the age of 22. It began as a bit in his comedy act, grew into a viral YouTube clip and has now evolved into a full-length film.

“I am blown away that I have milked this story for so long,” says Kreischer. “I have milked one bit—one bit—for so long, and I’m not done with it. I want a Machine 2, Machine 3 and Machine 4—then I’ll be done with it.

“And I think people are going to love it. It’s an action comedy, a throwback to the ’80s when you had these big action scenes. We have fight scenes, murder scenes, drugs. My only regret is we don’t have nudity—that would have made it a full ’80s comedy—but people are going to be satisfied when they walk out of the theater. It’s going to be way funnier than they think; they’ll be surprised at how gripping of a story it is, and people might even be surprised I can act.”

A devoted MMA fan, Kreischer was proud to share that his comedy has helped introduce him to some of the UFC’s most famed fighters.

“I met Conor McGregor when I went to his pub in Dublin, and he was way more jacked than I thought,” says Kreischer. “He asked me what I was doing in Dublin, and I told him I had a show at the 3Arena. Conor said, ‘Did ya sell it out?’ I said ‘Yeah,’ and Conor smiled and said, ‘We both sold out the 3Arena.’”

Kreischer was a fan of McGregor years before their meeting. He recalled the story of when he watched McGregor defeat José Aldo in December 2015, causing a ruckus at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Sandusky, Ohio.

“Conor’s win happened so fast that I celebrated by ripping my shirt off,” says Kreischer. “A woman working told me I needed to leave because there were children in the restaurant. Mind you—it’s past midnight, we’re watching a blood sport and the men fighting are shirtless. But me taking my shirt off was ruining people’s good time? I was absolutely not going to put my shirt back on, so she told me to leave.”

Similar to the fighters in the cage, Kreischer often performs shirtless. That was the case, again, when he had a chance to interact with Israel Adesanya.

“This was three in the morning at a bar in New Zealand,” says Kreischer. “We ended up going shirtless, standing back-to-back, and we challenged the whole bar to a fight. But we ended up buying them shots instead.”

Kreischer holds MMA in high regard. One of the villains in The Machine is played by former UFC fighter Oleg Taktarov, and he was honored to share the screen with him. He struggled when asked to choose his top three fighters in the sport, instead landing on a list of five.

“My top three are Gamebred [Jorge Masvidal], Nate Diaz and Conor,” says Kreischer. “No, that’s not right. Put Izzy in there, too. Damn it, I’m forgetting Jon Jones. Put those five in my top three.”

Mystery, confusion and excitement surrounding Jon Jones’s future

Jon Jones will defend his UFC heavyweight championship.

But when? And against whom?

All signs pointed to a title bout against Stipe Miocic. Seeds were planted for that bout as soon as Jones won the belt in March. Initially, it appeared the fight could headline International Fight Week this July in Las Vegas. But no contract was signed, postponing this clash of champions until, at the earliest, this November at Madison Square Garden.

A date at MSG is still in play, but the clock is ticking. Miocic, who has not fought since losing to Francis Ngannou in March 2021, wants a significant payday. A loss could signal the end of a legendary career for the former two-time UFC heavyweight champ. He turns 41 this summer, so it is imperative he gets a hefty contract here. Ngannou’s new contract with the PFL, where his opponents will make more than two million per fight, is no doubt being used as leverage for Miocic.

A title bout pitting Jones against Miocic is the only title fight that makes sense. Sergei Pavlovich is not yet on Jones’s level, Jailton Almeida is at least a couple of fights away from the title picture, and no one else is ready for a showdown with Jones. All that should lead to a significant payday for Miocic.

A former winner returning to TUF

A fighter familiar to the UFC is returning to The Ultimate Fighter.

Part of Michael Chandler’s coaching staff is Ryan Bader, The Ultimate Fighter 8 light heavyweight winner. After a successful career in the UFC, where he won 15 fights over eight years—yet never once received a title shot—Bader left for Bellator.

His narrative has changed in Bellator. Bader has won both the light heavyweight and heavyweight belts. He is still the reigning heavyweight champ, last defeating Fedor Emelianenko by knockout in February. That marked the second time Bader beat him, a rare accomplishment that remains impressive despite the fact Emelianenko was at the end of his legendary career.

It is not expected that Bader will be introduced as the Bellator heavyweight champion on The Ultimate Fighter, at least not in tonight’s season premiere on ESPN. But it is still significant exposure for Bader, whose success in Bellator has continued to fly under the radar.

Had Bader never left the UFC, it would have led to some intriguing bouts. He would have made an interesting opponent for Daniel Cormier five years ago in a fight for the light heavyweight championship, and it would be fascinating now to see how Bader would match up against UFC’s heavyweights.

Screen time on The Ultimate Fighter will likely be limited, but here’s hoping for one memorable exchange between Bader and Conor McGregor.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.